There’s a derelict three-storey house towering over the road as one drives from Bonmahon Village towards the coast road to Tramore. It’s a building that I’ve passed hundreds of times but have never investigated properly until recently as it has an eerie look about it.
It transpires that it was built in the 19th century for the manager of the copper mine in the area.
It would seem from the plaque on the wall beneath the house that the most notable manager was a man called John Petherick
The fact that the house overlooked the area, now resembling wasteland, where the copper was concentrated by a small army of men, women and boys explains why the house was so tall.
The windows which once provided the view for the mine manager are either boarded up or have wooden frames, cracked glass, and flapping drawn curtains.
Going round to the rear of the house was like walking into a rusty past.
At first, I thought this was an old fireplace but on reflection, I’m not sure. Close by is an old water pump that had me wondering about the domestic arrangements in the big house back in the 19th century.
Even though it’s about two weeks since I was up at the house, the human stories it witnessed at both sides of those twelve windows continue to intrigue and haunt me.
The fact that I am writing this post on Thanksgiving Day in America is not lost on me. The Copper Coast and the mining works at Tankardstown always make me think of America and the many, many miners who moved to America, especially to Butte in Montana. I suspect that as I post this many of their descendants will be celebrating Thanksgiving but seeing this little corner of Ireland out of their eyes. Let us raise a glass together!
I’ve always loved playing with words and have been enthralled by the WORDS Writer’s Group which was set up almost a year ago now. It is held at the Art Hand, which is situated near Bonmahon at one of the most scenic parts of Co. Waterford’s stunning and historic Copper Coast.
The Group meets on the first Wednesday of each month and the whole essence of the event is that we share words ~ be they our own or those written by others. These are words across genres, generations and are local, global ~ mainly in English but sometimes not; mainly face-to-face but sometimes via Skype from far flung places. You can sit and listen, sit and respond or stand up and perform ….. with performance being as widely interpreted as the words themselves.
My contribution for this months event arose out of staring at a blank page with the letters W O R D S scrawled at the top. It dawned on me that moving the letter S to the beginning brought a SWORD into play and suddenly I could see a ginormous paper knife slitting open a huge envelope of words, thoughts, emotions, imaginings … that have been evoked by the WORDS Writer’s Group since its inception. The words that tumbled onto the page included:
Wounds Opposites Roots Darkness Ships
Winnings Ordinary Remembrance Dawnings Secrets
Worth Opportunity Realities Drawings Senses
Welcome Openings Records Drives Seamus Heaney
Warmth Oddities Reading Drinks Storms
Wonderment Observations Responses Death Sea Pinks
Wrappings Oneness Reactions Direction Songs
Willow Order Roadways Dread Singing
Winding Oceans Rhyme Doors Sounds
Wine Rhythm Dreams Silence
Whispers Reaching Desserts Sophisticated
Whipping Deserts Simple
Writing Daftness Soft
WORDS Writer’s Group is very much a work in progress and I know that all the participants will have their own special words from the year that flown. I can’t but wonder what will be unleashed as we move into the future together….
Yesterday was one of those days when I let instinct drive me. It brought me to Garrarus where I got drenched by a big fluffy wave before I’d even taken off my shoes. December 28, 2013 was insisting that it wasn’t going to be written off as a day for either looking back or looking forward.
It splashed and coloured its way right into the centre of my stage as a day to be lived for its own uniqueness and beauty. Here are the scenes that unfolded along the coast from Garrarus to Tankardstown ~ that little stretch of the world here in Co. Waterford which is so incredibly precious …..
Yesterday this blog literally came alive. A few months back, I posted a piece about the stunning Copper Coast in Co. Waterford from where many miners emigrated in the 19th Century to Butte, Montana in America when the Copper mines in Bonmahon closed down.
I sent it to the Montana Standard and received a number of emails from people with a passionate interest in the whole subject as they are descendants of Bonmahon miners.
Well, yesterday, I had the amazing experience of meeting with a 70-year-old man, his daughter and two of his grandchildren and escorting them along the Copper Coast. We drove in convoy but the 70-year-old man whose great grandfather had worked in the mines was sitting beside me in my car. We chatted away and then there was a haunting silence as the mine works at Tankardstown came into view. Mining was nothing new to this man as he had worked in the mining industry in Butte but Ireland, Co. Waterford and the Copper Coast were totally new to him. I wondered what was running through his heart and soul in those quiet minutes. Maybe one day he will tell me or maybe it will remain indescribable.
We drove to the little village of Kill, which was central to his great-grandfather’s story and as we waited for a delicious meal at Kirwan’s pub, he slipped out to soak in the sense of the place where his great-grandfather had been baptised and probably lived. I bade them farewell back in Bonmahon at the heart of where the miners had lived and a few hours later I went to a sreening of a series of splendid short films, The Copper Coast Miners, made by Art Hand Productions. Sitting in the Copper Coast Geopark at the showing, I realised that I had come thousands of miles yesterday in terms of gaining insight into the significance of the mining community of Bonmahon and how it has touched so many people in a host of different ways.